Where to start with ZigBee?

Hello community, I have been using HA for a couple of years with various smart technology (speakers, displays, thermostats, radiator valves, underfloor heating, smart plugs, lights, sensors, CCTV, white appliances, etc.) and it’s been absolutely fantastic and great fun too.

I want to add more sensors (like humidity/temperature, door sensors) and smart switches and feel like I wanted to go down the ZigBee route but research is so overwhelming. Every time I look into something, I find something else and I’m not getting anywhere!

Can anyone point me to a dummies guide or offer more specific advice to get me started?

  • I run HA as a VM on a NUC and I have a Philips Hue Hub already (for lights). I’m looking at buying Sonoff ZigBee devices - do I need another ZigBee bridge?

  • Do I need to understand Tasmota or would LocalTuya be fine for bringing all these sensors into Home Assistant?

I have many other questions, but this would really help me get started!!


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  • Zigbee is a standalone radio protocol. Both Sonoff and Hue produce Zigbee compatible products, but also kit based on other protocols.
  • Sonoff also produce ESP-based devices based on Wi-Fi, some of which can be modified to run Tasmota firmware. Tasmota is designed to run on Wi-Fi, not Zigbee radios.
  • Tuya make both modules for others, and their own hardware. Some use Wi-Fi, and probably some use Zigbee, but again are seperate.

Basically you seem to be confusing radio standards / manufacturers / and replacement firmware.

Have a look at Vesternet - their sales site breaks products down by the standard they use, rather than the manufacturer, which might help.

Sonoff are famous for their Wi-Fi connected switches based on ESP microcontrollers which can run Tasmota open firmware and MQTT.

Sonoff also produce a range of Zigbee devices - these are completely separate, and can’t interwork without something like HASS to link Wi-Fi+MQTT and Zigbee. Some Sonoff switches may look the same, but they use completely different microprocessors, and different radios (Wi-Fi verses Zigbee).

  • Sonoff S26 = Wi-Fi, contains an ESP, can run Tasmota or ESPhome and talk via MQTT over Wi-Fi
  • Sonoff S26R2ZB = Zigbee, no idea what’s inside, as Zigbee works locally

You can link a Hue bridge into HASS, but although it uses Zigbee, I believe Philips choose to limit it to only speak to their own products. To mix Zigbee devices such as a Sonoff temperature sensor and a Hue bulb, you’d need an open Zigbee radio like the Sonoff Zigbee v3.0 which works well. The USB port creates a serial interface which you may need to map through your VM.

IKEA produce cheap and widely available Zigbee devices, but these have many quirks as IKEA decided to mess around with the Zigbee protocol. The mains switches are fine, but I’d leave the radio remotes alone until you have more Zigbee experience.

IKEA mains switches are useful as most Zigbee mains powered kit acts as a Zigbee mesh router to extend the radio range. Don’t move your HASS device - add more mains Zigbee kit.

The Sonoff TH01 is a cheap Zigbee temp sensor which seems to work, although I’ve not tried the SNZB-02 humidity sensor. Sonoff door reeds and PIR movement sensors also work, and have batteries which are a hell of a lot cheaper than the Z-Wave equivalents.

If this helps, :heart: this post!

  1. Start by deciding whether you want ZHA or Zigbee2MQTT. The choice is basically whether you want it all in HA (ZHA) or to separate them out (Zigbee2MQTT).

  2. Now pick a coordinator - CC2652 based works well with both, EZSP based only works well with ZHA. Don’t buy ConBee/RaspBee, or anything WiFi based.

  3. Tasmota and LocalTuya won’t be involved. Tasmota is for (some) WiFi based devices, and LocalTuya is for (some of) Tuya’s WiFi based devices.

  4. The standard recommendation is to be very careful about buying Tuya devices, many of them are not great, and some are downright terrible - there are of course some really good ones. Sonoff’s battery based sensors also get very mixed reviews.

  5. Recommendations typically include Innr, Gledopto, Salus, and Hue. Ikea are a slightly mixed bag (some firmware updates have caused people issues), and Xiaomi have known issues but with a little care when buying their older Zigbee 1.2 devices they’re great value and reliable.

  6. The Zigbee mesh is built from the (Zigbee) routers - which are most mains powered devices, except for Sengled bulbs, most two-wire switches/dimmers, and a few other things. I use Innr plugs, and others have also found them to be rather good routers, but you can buy a CC2652 based stick (with antenna) and flash it with router firmware - they only need USB power.

  7. Before buying, do research and ask here or on the relevant Discord server(s). A little bit of time spent up front will often save you hours, days, or even weeks of frustration.


We should also mention the SkyConnect multi-protocol radio which is being developed by NabuCasa (the core team behind HASS).

It has the advantage that once fully developed, the SilLabs hardware will be able to support both Zigbee and Thread. Protocols Zigbee + Thread use the same radio (IEEE 802.15.4) with different addressing, and in the future it is likely that Thread (closely aligned with the Matter protocol) will take a lot of market share. This could take a few years, so inexpensive Zigbee hardware is still worth purchasing (there’s barely a handfull of Matter / Thread products actually in shops despite lots of hype).

The SkyConnect is being manufactured now, and is the same hardware as the Yellow appliance. My personal experience is the Sonoff 3 radio (with its external antenna) has a lot more range than the PCB antenna in Yellow, so SkyConnect may be similar.

Migrating hardware from Sonoff 3 to Yellow worked without having to re-pair all devices, but that was with the ZHA Zigbee software. Not all integrations support migration, and radios vary in what they can support.

Simply, use hardware a lot of other folk have as there will be lots of support.

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Thanks for the quick and detailed responses. There’s clearnly not a onestopshop for Zigbee!

I do understand protocols and manufacturers but was unclear about Zigbee compatibility with the Hue bridge… and what Tasmota even is or that Tuya is only for WiFi devices!!

I’ve read conflicting information on Hue Bridge so wasn’t sure what to believe, newer information suggests they are part of (or work with?) the Zigbee alliance. I think I’ll just play it safe and look at the Sonoff dongle (the -p or the -e) or even wait for the SkyConnect to become readily available.

I thought Sonoff was a safe bet, but maybe that’s because I see their name a lot with WiFi devices. Looks like IKEA switches may also be a good starting place.

I think this is just what I meant, it feels like there are so many contributing factors with Zigbee… I don’t even know what a coordinator is :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for all the advice, I think I need to be a bit more patient, do more research and just understand it a lot more before asking some more specific questions.

I think you’re experiencing the classic XKCD :slight_smile: :

Home automation products are a classic time/ money/ quality engineering triangle:

  • An open standard gets used by many with cheap kit, but might not always work (Zigbee, MQTT).
  • A rigorous, regulated standard should always work, but the approval testing makes products expensive and s-l-o-w (Matter, Thread, Z-Wave).
    How long has Matter been going to make everything simple? :slight_smile:

Sadly we also have to contend with butchered versions of open standards:

  • Hue + Zigbee (Zigbee can control Hue, Hue can not control all Zigbee)
  • IKEA Tradfri + Zigbee (sockets are great, remotes are wierd - although Zigbee2MQTT works better than ZHA)

A few Zigbee Top Tips:

  • A 90-degree USB adaptor from Amazon works well with a USB stick, to have the radio aerial upwards for maximum range.
  • Some say USB3.0 ports cause interference, with Zigbee/ Z-Wave, so recommend a short USB cable or (e.g. on a Raspberry Pi) using USB2.0 ports instead.
  • If you find Zigbee devices are eating batteries, buy more Zigbee mains switches to extend the mesh (CR2032 are cheap should last months - apart from IKEA 5-button remotes).
  • The reset/ pair button on Sonoff Zigbee remotes is TINY and behind a small pin-hole. Careful with the paper clip, as you might miss the button and bend it off the PCB. Take one apart to look!

The good thing about Zigbee, is it’s a lot cheaper than Z-Wave so a few devices to test shouldn’t break the bank.

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Waiting for a product that isn’t expected to ship for another two months or so doesn’t make sense.

For a product that will most likely (not guaranteed) have most or all the benefits of skyconnect, get the Sonoff ZBDongle-E or another currently available stick based on the EFR32MG21 chip.

It’s the little radio thingy that can “speak” the Zigbee wireless protocol. It allows your Zigbee software stack (ZHA or Z2M) to talk to the Zigbee devices. Typically a USB stick, but can be a little hardware box you plug into your network (not to be confused with a hub like the Hue/Tradfri/Aqara hub, those include the software end of things)

Your Zigbee mesh needs exactly one coordinator, and then a mix of routers and end devices.

Routers expand the reach of the mesh, and also allow you to connect more devices than your coordinator alone can handle (they usually top out somewhere between 5 and 50 directly connected devices). They have to have permanent power since they’re always listening for Zigbee packets.

End devices are all the other things. Typically battery powered sensors that spend almost all their time with the Zigbee radio asleep, just waking very occasionally (once an hour typically, but it’s not uncommon for that to be longer). They can get a year or few of battery life by doing that.

It’s not a theory, it’s reality :wink: Phoscon have it in the recommendations and Intel published a paper on USB 3.0 interference with Zigbee and Z-Wave.

A short USB extension cable can make a world of difference. Plus, moving the radio above head height means that people aren’t acting as signal blockers as they walk around.


Agree - given the supply chain issues with the Yellow, I’m not even sure two months is a certain delivery date - and that’s ignoring Thread protocol support (I read SilLabs “Incubator” as meaning Beta software).

As I mentioned, it could take a few years for Thread hardware to become common (and cheap - ESP32C3 with crypto support costs more than ESP12). Thankfully Zigbee kit is cheap enough to deploy now, and replace later with Thread (as I don’t need 3x meshes - Z-Wave, ZigBee, Thread).

I would echo most of @Tinkerer’s thoughts with a couple of differences.

I would add as point zero - GET STARTED. The FUD goes away pretty quickly once you’ve worked though it.

@Tinkerer’s first point was decide on ZHA vs Zigbee2MQTT. I strongly suggest trying them both out. I like z2m best overall, but it is subjective. My basic thoughts on the two are here: ZHA Vs Zigbee2Mqtt - #3 by jerrm.

I agree on starting with a CC2652P stick. The work great with both ZHA and z2m. (Amazon.com, CC2652P2 Zigbee to Ethernet Serial Coordinator | TubesZB Store, Sonoff Zb Dongle-p Zigbee 3.0 Usb Dongle Plus Wireless Zigbee Gateway Analyzer Zigbee2mqtt Usb Interface Capture With Antenna - Automation Modules - AliExpress).

NOTE: with Sonoff you want the ZBDongle-P. The “-E” is a different chip (EFR32MG21), very good, but z2m support is still beta.

Don’t let the the potential Thread compatibility add to the FUD. If you later decide on the SkyConnect or other EFR32MG21 chip, the cc2652p can be flashed to be a great router for your zigbee net.

Then get one each of each type of sensor - that should be pretty cheap. As @Tinkerer suggests, avoid Tuya to start. I have several Tuya products, but it’s variable you don’t want in the mix to start. Sensors are pretty inexpensive. If you can devote a few more dollars to testing, pick up a switch.

I wouldn’t look to get bottom dollar on the test devices. Save that for when your going to buy 15 door sensors for every door in the house.

If you purchase wisely, you may have extended return periods over the holiday if you decide zigbee isn’t for you.

First setup ZHA, it is easiest to get started with. Add devices, create automations, give it a good testing, but don’t get too attached as this is just a test.

If thoroughly pleased with ZHA, you could stop there, but I encourage testing out z2m as well. Just disable ZHA and then install z2m using the same USB stick. You’ll need to re-pair everything, but since we are still in the testing phase with just a few devices, it’s not a big deal. Again, add devices, create automations, etc. Note the differences in how things present, exposed to automations, etc.

Then choose your integration and start building things out for real.

But again, most importantly, GET STARTED !


Don’t wait. There is no evidence it will ever be “readily available.” There are the pre-order batches, but no mention I’ve seen how much “stock,” if any, they will maintain beyond the pre-orders.

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I’ll echo the don’t wait cries. There’s always going to be something newer/better/faster/cheaper on the horizon.

When you wait for that, another one will come along. I started with objectively the worst Zigbee coordinator on the market - the CC2531, but it got me going. I bought a bunch of devices, and I learned a lot along the way.

Not all my choices were good. Sometimes I ignored warnings and bought stuff I later regretted. Sometimes I bought stuff that wasn’t yet known to be bad, but was able to warn others.

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I see your CC2531, and raise you a Sonoff Bridge - a device so crap, that even after the effort of flashing two different uP via hand-soldered ICSP, it still can’t maintain a stable connection to HASS in normal operation with four devices! :smiley: :rofl:

The best part of owning a Sonoff Bridge is smashing it into small pieces with a large hammer! :boom: :hammer:

Even after such an inauspicious start, I still use Zigbee. As you suggest, just get some kit and play!

(PS If you do find a Sonoff Bridge, flash it with a different firmware to create a Zigbee mesh repeater to reduce landfill.)


I’m in a “starting from scratch” situation…sorta. I’ve got:

  • Latest HA containerized and installed on a Rpi4 running latest Debian Linux and 1TB local Sata SSD storage
  • The Nortek USB zigbee/z-wave dongle installed and it seems to work
  • Google Wifi Mesh connecting a bunch of Amazon Echo 4th gen orbs that all act as zigbee repeaters

What I’m hoping to accomplish is to toss all my old Smartthings kit. It’s all 6 years old and the hub is EOL. I’d like to buy all new door/window sensors, some motion sensors, garage door opener, smoke alarms, integrate with Nest thermostats, doorbell, etc. And I like the idea of being able to operate everything locally without the need for internet connectivity if my net connection temporarily drops.

I don’t mind spending some $$$ to get stuff that just plain works with HA without a lot of hair pulling.

Is there a solid brand of gear that has a record of little/no drama to integrate? :slight_smile:

I asked a similar question about a year ago and then had to shelve things due to work priorities. Now I’m on a sabbatical and ready to rock and roll. :slight_smile:


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They will not repeat for a zigbee network they are not part of - and they don’t join other networks. :wink: Count them out as repeaters. Sorry.

Also - edit.

any of your old ST gear is bog standard Zigbee - keep it.

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I started with that stick. Seemed like a good idea at the time. As I built up the network, I had issues with devices going offline. Replaced it with the Sonoff ZBDongle-P, and things have been solid since.

Another issue with the Nortek, is if you ever do want to use the migration tools and move to another zigbee stick, you may not be able to keep the zwave side up on the Nortek. Zigbee migration clones the ieee address to the new stick, and the old stick can’t be powered up while still using the same zigbee ieee, even if not actively using the zigbee side of the stick.

Luckily I had not started using zwave at the time of my migration and was able to return the Nortek.

Unfortunately, a lot of it depends on the device mix. Expect some issues. Add devices methodically, especially anything mains powered that acts as a router, and give it some time before adding a new variable.

I had added a Sonoff plug. I was happy with it and things seem fine for a while, then started having some weird issues popping up with a few devices. I found the problem devices were all routing via the Sonoff plug. Swapped the Sonoff plug out with a Sengled plug and all was well again (and remains well).


Good to know about the 4th gen Echo devices. I’ve also got a bunch of zigbee smart plugs that are supposed to be repeaters. I have at least one of these in every room and in the garage:

Hopefully, these will play nice. I’ll also order one of the Sonoff ZBDongles. Thanks for the heads up.


Is there a good giude that walks thru the process of migrating?

I’ve been using the Nortek zigbee/zwave stick (not actually using the zwave side - I use an Aeotec stick for that) since I started with HA 5+ years ago. It’s been fairly solid for me in that time.

I recently bought the Sonoff Zigbee stick but it’s been sitting in the box waiting for me to take the migration plunge.

And since the Nortek stick works so good I haven’t been too motivated to do it yet.

If there was an easy guide I might finally get it done. :slightly_smiling_face:

ZHA or z2m?

ZHA has it pretty much built in now with the migrate radio functionality.